What is Fordite?

Education Fordite

Fordite - also known as Detroit or Motor City Agate - is the by-product of automobile manufacturers from the now-obsolete practice of hand spray-painting cars. Multiple layers of differently colored paint overspray would build up everywhere - on the tracks, the floor, the walls - and eventually had to be removed when it started preventing the cars from moving down the production line.

Once it was removed, people noticed how aesthetically beautiful it was, and the ease of which it could be cut and polished into sculptures and gemstones. And once artists got their hands on it, Fordite was born! People knowledgeable in classic cars can even point to certain colors in Fordite and name the car and production year it came from.

But not all layered automotive paints are created equal!  There are actually several different variations of layered paint, all with the name "Fordite":

Detroit Fordite

The original material was created many years ago at the Ford Rouge Plant just outside of Detroit, Michigan. Layer upon layer, paint over-spray built up on metal racks that transported new car bodies through the paint shop, and into the oven, where each coat was baked hard. It is very fun to work, from the mostly black and brown enamels of the late 1940's, to the colorful lacquers of the 1960's, right up to the vibrant base coats of the late 1980's when just a few factories still painted in the old way. It is a great 'stone' and we have also made some great jewelry with it!

Corvette Fordite

Corvette Fordite comes from the Corvette factory in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Even though it's made by Chevrolet, the layered paint material is still called Fordite as that has become the catch-all name for any car paint material used artistically.  It is characterized by bright, vibrant colors like red, blue, and yellow.

Minnesota "Fordite"

Minnesota "Fordite" is a layered-paint product, made to resemble the costly and extremely rare Detroit Fordite.  While still beautiful, it is not made with the same automotive paint as authentic Fordite, nor is it made by the same process.  One way to differentiate it from authentic Fordite is the thicker layers, non-automotive colors, and the lack of shimmer that's found on pieces of authentic Fordite.

Other Types of "-ite" Layered Paints

Strange as it may seem, cars aren't the only things that get painted.  Strange, I know!  The increase in popularity of Fordite has given rise to all sorts of paint-based products:

  • Boatite - a resin-based marine paint used on boats
  • Surfite - a resin and epoxy-based paint used to paint surfboards
  • Bowlerite - made from polyurethane, urethane, polyester resin, wood, and rubber used to coat/paint bowling balls

  • Christina Davison on

    I grew up in Dearborn, yet never have I heard of this paint being polished into a stone! It is truly beautiful! I can hardly wait to find some and use it in my jewelry.

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